Malone writes: "Ryman’s work is often spoken of in terms of a pronounced quietude, but a full appreciation of its extended roots—effectively accomplished in the two Dia shows—can enrich the experience... The Chelsea show concentrates on color, highlighting the artist’s early development of his exclusive and by now signature choice of white paint. The Beacon show concentrates on his attentiveness to the ambient light that has such a profound effect on a viewer’s experience of the work. The Chelsea show echoes formal concerns similar to those of early modernism, while the Beacon show seems to touch upon that period’s infatuation with spirituality, a phenomenon that was itself a revival of a much older aesthetic."
James Kalm visits an exhibition of works by Robert Ryman at Dia:Chelsea, New York, on view through June 18, 2016.
Kalm notes: "This show presents a wide survey of various experimental and conceptual approaches to the project of painting. Since beginning his practice in the mid 1950s, Ryman has limited his materials to mostly white paint, square formats, and an extraordinary variety of grounds and surfaces onto which he applies paint. These twenty-two paintings record the evolving bodies of work the artist has developed from the late 1950s until the mid 1980s."
Jeff Jahn remembers painter Ellsworth Kelly (1923-2015).
Jahn writes: "As one of my favorite artists what I appreciated most in Kelly's work was his way of sharing the otherwise impossible world of pure, concentrated observation. As subjectivity demands, conveying what one individual apprehends necessitates a kind of distillation and transposition into abstraction. Usually something is lost in that process, but not with Kelly. It ends up being visually and spatially richer and more pervasive... closer to an alphabet for the basic architecture of reality than painting... The act of looking for Kelly... in a very personal way was directly related to Matisse, someone few artists have been able to build upon. But Kelly did and similarly his work remained vital right to the end. Perhaps that is the greatest of his Kelly's gifts as a an artist... the way things in his eyes/hands never seemed to be diminished in vitality, observation and specifics."
Peter Schjeldahl reviews a retrospective of works by Robert Ryman at Dia:Chelsea, New York, on view through June 18, 2016.
Schjeldahl writes: "Ryman’s reductions of painting to basic protocols are engaging only to the extent that you regard painting as an art that is both inherently important and circumstantially in crisis. You must buy into an old story, which bears on Ryman’s extreme, peculiarly sacramental standing in the history of taste. Ryman’s is a kind of mute art that, generating reverent and brainy chatter, puts uninitiated citizens in mind of the emperor’s new clothes... Yet, actually, the populist fable rather befits the serious aims of Ryman and his avant-garde generation, who insisted on something very like full-frontal nudity in artistic intentions. The emperor—roughly, high-modernist faith in art’s world-changing mission—could retain fealty only if stripped of fancy styles and sentimental excuses. That was Ryman’s formative moment. It was succeeded by a suspicion, now amounting to a resigned conviction, that contemporary art is an industry producing just clothes, with no ruling authority inside them."
Allie Biswas interviews curator Courtney J. Martin about the work of Robert Ryman on the occasion of an exhibition of works by Ryman at Dia:Chelsea, New York, on view through June 18, 2016.
Martin comments: "it was never just white paint: at the very beginning, he was simply experimenting. In many ways, it’s not just the achromatic factor, there is also the question of surface depth. Sometimes he applied paint with a palette knife, resulting in dense, encrusted surfaces. In other works, the paint is sheer and thin, like a wash. Viewers get caught up in looking at the white and yet we're missing what’s really happening. We are missing the application and the method. For many of the works, colour has been applied underneath, and then been painted over with white. When you look at the work chronologically, each painting is a challenge or a question that Ryman answered or complicated with the next painting that he completed."
Altoon Sultan blogs about two exhibitions currently on view at David Zwirner Gallery, New York: Giorgio Morandi and Donald Judd (both on view through December 19).
Sultan writes that at the Judd show: "Here was work that was intensely formal––about shape and dimension and repetition and balance and weight and color––that was so beautiful in its clarity and reserve that I was deeply touched. ... Walking upstairs ... where a beautiful show of Morandi paintings and prints was hanging, I was struck by a similarity of concerns for the two artists. Although Morandi's forms aren't minimalist, he painted the same simple objects again and again in different configurations, playing with basic ideas of relationships of form and space and color. Whether the objects are in a line at the front edge of a table or compressed against its outer edge, I feel that the things depicted are more than just studio props; they become, like the Judd sculpture, essential forms, touching on transcending the ordinary."
Roberta Smith reviews works by Robert Ryman at Dia:Chelsea, New York, on view through June 18, 2016.
Smith writes: "In effect, Mr. Ryman has spent his career circling Point A, proving that there are an infinite number of ways to meet painting’s basic requirements... It helps to think of Mr. Ryman as a kind of philosopher-carpenter with an inborn, almost mystical love of paint as paint. He wants us to understand its sensuousness while he demonstrates that paintings are in effect 'built' from scores of decisions and details, and then proceeds to challenge our definition of his medium. 'Is this a painting?' 'Is that a painting?' could be taken as the main credo of his art. He doesn’t always provide easy answers."
Nicholas Spice reviews a retrospective exhibition of works by painter Agnes Martin, on view at Tate Modern through October 11, 2015.
Spice writes: "It is often remarked about our engagement with Martin’s paintings that we are uncertain, when standing in front of them, where they reside. There are said to be three basic viewing positions: up close, from a distance and halfway between. At a distance – so this account goes – the paintings hide from us, close like flowers at the end of the day, retreat into impassivity, their details no longer to be seen. Up close, the materiality of paint, graphite and canvas asserts itself: lines that looked straight turn out to be subtly irregular, the spacings of an intricate grid are discovered to be subject to slight deviations, uniform colour fields to reveal delicate fluctuations in density – thinning here, pooling there. In the intermediate position, meanwhile, everything starts to swim, shimmer and pulse. In fact, things are a little less neat than this. Some of the paintings actually become more emphatic and distinct as one moves away from them; others so dazzle at close range that focusing on the detail tires the eyes; a few remain visually stable wherever one happens to be standing. But generally, in their shifting, mercurial nature, their having no steady state, the paintings can seem to elude us. What they exactly are, we cannot grasp. A consequence of their indeterminacy is that the paintings ask that we look, look and keep looking. They beckon us into an attitude of attention, a willingness to take time."
Charley Peters reviews the Agnes Martin retrospective at Tate Modern, on view through October 11, 2015.
Peters notes that "Despite any of the vulnerability implied by the narratives surrounding her paintings, [the exhibition] is a vast, comprehensive survey of [Martin's] robust and relentless vision, best viewed by spending time with her paintings and not by dwelling for too long on the explanations of why they may have been made... The power of Martin’s paintings is in their quiet declaration of their own existence; they are barely visible but resolutely present."
Janet McKenzie reviews a retrospective exhibition of works by painter Agnes Martin, on view at Tate Modern through October 11, 2015.
McKenzie notes that "[Martin's] works are composed of the simplest formal elements – ruled pencil lines and a limited number of forms, including grids, stripes and, occasionally, circles, triangles and squares, painted in a reduced palette on square canvases. The austere painting anticipated and helped to define minimalism... In 1989, Martin recalled: “When I first made a grid, I happened to be thinking of the innocence of trees and then this grid came into my mind and I thought it represented innocence, and I still do, and so I painted it and then I was satisfied. I thought, ‘This is my vision.’”
Edited by artist Brett Baker, Painters' Table highlights writing from the painting blogosphere as it is published and serves as a platform for exploring blogs that focus primarily on the subject of painting.